Elementary Schoolers “Shop with a Cop”

‘Tis the season of giving; and some local law enforcement got into the holiday spirit earlier this month with some elementary school children in the community.

Morris Grove Elementary School Principal Amy Rickard says she was approached by Carrboro Police to see if students would be interested in a field trip – a trip to the store to “Shop with a Cop.”

“We had 19 students who were able to go on the field trip,” she says. “And five different police department organizations – the Carrboro Police Department, Chapel Hill Police, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Campus Police, and the Hospital Police.”

Rickard says the list of children chosen to participate was determined by the school’s social worker, and that the children went shopping with the off-duty officers at the Walmart in Hillsborough.

“The Chapel Hill Optimist Club donated a $75 gift card for every child,” she says. “We spent a little more than an hour at the Walmart, and they got to shop with their cop.”

Rickard adds that seeing the smiles on the children’s faces was a wonderful moment and the effects lingered around the school.

“They were very excited. Most of them (went) around (for days) wearing their police badges that they gave them,” she says.

Rickard calls the experience one of the best field trips that she’s ever been on.

She says there were no rules about the purchases the children could make and many of them bought items for their siblings – in addition to an item or two for themselves.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/elementary-schoolers-shop-cop/

No Death Penalty in Case of Murdered Professor

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall will not be seeking the death penalty in the case of a murdered UNC professor from July of this year.

59-year-old Feng Liu was hit in the head with a landscaping rock on July 23rd, while he was walking near West University Drive and Ransom Street and died the next day at UNC Hospitals.

Two men were arrested in connection with the case the next day.

They’re charged with first-degree murder – a capital crime – but Woodall says there are issues that exist with the death penalty, in its current form.

“The death penalty is really in a state of uncertainty,” he says. “There has not been an execution [in North Carolina] in many years. There are lots of challenges to our death penalty statute and the scheme that is used in North Carolina. That’s true all over the country.”

DA Woodall also says that, based on recent history, he does not believe a death verdict would ultimately be handed down.

“[Even] as horrific as the circumstances of this case are, I think it’s extremely unlikely that there would be a death verdict in this case,” he says. “I talked to the Liu family, and they did not want it pursued as a death penalty case.”

Woodall says the discussion with the victim’s family does not make the decision of whether to pursue the death penalty or not, but it does factor into his equation.

The next step in the Liu trial is a court date set for April, which Woodall refers to as an “administrative” appearance.

Woodall adds that the investigation is ongoing and new discoveries are being made. Those discoveries must then be shared with the defense throughout the trial.

The district attorney is not expecting to have evidence back from the state crime lab before the next trial date.

“It will not be a case that’s for trial for some period of time,” he says. “Waiting to get the evidence back from the crime lab will take, probably, close to a year.”

27-year-old Troy Arrington, of Chapel Hill, and 23-year-old Derick Davis II, of Durham, have been charged in killing the professor.

The two men face charges of armed robbery in addition to first-degree murder.

http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/no-death-penalty-case-murdered-professor/

Chapel Hill Police Looking for Two Breaking-and-Entering Suspects

Chapel Hill Police are searching for two suspects believed to be responsible for breaking into a vehicle, in the Meadowmont community.

Lieutenant Joshua Mecimore, of the Chapel Hill Police Department, says the break-ins occurred last Wednesday, on Sprunt Street. He adds the suspects quickly used stolen cards to run up quite a bill.

“Those cards were used at several stores, just inside Durham,” he says. “And were used a couple of times shortly after that at other locations. Those totaled close to $5,000 in charges.”

If anyone has information concerning the identities or whereabouts of these individuals, please call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.  Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous. The caller may be eligible for a cash reward up to $2,000 for information that leads to arrests.

http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chapel-hill-police-looking-two-breaking-entering-suspects/

Town of Chapel Hill Named among Healthiest Companies in Triangle

The Town of Chapel Hill has been named one of the 35 healthiest employers across the Triangle by the Triangle Business Journal.

Jason deBruyn, with TBJ, says he is very excited about a new program that has been launched by the Town of Chapel Hill.

“They do some pretty progressive stuff,” he says. “They have a free employee health clinic. That’s staffed with a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, and a health coach that are all employed by UNC Health Care.”

deBruyn says that the clinic is open to all town employees – eliminating many of the excuses we use for not going to the doctor.

“By having this clinic on site, and by the Town of Chapel Hill saying that the employees can come during work and get checked out, people are a lot more likely to use it,” he says.

deBruyn says he expects the use of on-site clinics to increase in the area, especially in locations where multiple companies share an office park and can split the healthcare costs.

After a long tenure with their headquarters in Chapel Hill, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has transitioned to a more central campus in Durham.

deBruyn says Blue Cross Blue Shield has been on the leading edge of providing a healthy workplace in recent years.

“They offer various incentives to encourage employees to lose as much weight as possible,” he says. “They’ll even group them into teams.”

deBruyn adds that BCBS was one of the first companies in the Triangle to begin offering this program. He says that breaking the participants up into teams can also build strong bonds among the employees.

Overall, the region has actually regressed below the national average in terms of the health workplaces, but deBruyn says a portion of that can be caused by the fact that companies have been working to stay ahead of the curve for so long.

He adds that having healthy employees can be very beneficial to the companies as well.

“There have been some really good studies,” he says, “that show that for every dollar invested in a wellness program – or in some kind of a health benefit outside of traditional health insurance – it returns as many as three, four, sometimes as much as five dollars in work productivity and in less lost time.”

Both the Town of Chapel Hill and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina have both been on the annual list in recent years. For 2014, BCBS checks in at number 7 in the region and the Town of Chapel Hill ranks 14th.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/two-chapel-hill-companies-among-healthiest-triangle/

Zones Chosen By FSA Council To Create Pipeline to Success for Children

The Family Success Alliance Council has chosen two of the six geographic zones to enact a pilot program with the goal of creating a pipeline of success for children living in poverty.

Dr. Michael Steiner, with UNC Health Care, announced the selection following a committee vote.

“Congratulations to Zone 4 and Zone 6, and the Family Success Alliance will look forward to continue working with you and starting the next steps of the process.”

Zone 4 represents central Orange County, specifically between I-40 and I-85. Zone 6 covers a densely populated area from downtown Chapel Hill to Highway 54.

Representatives from the six zones that were being considered for the pilot program gave their pitch to the council during a special meeting, on Tuesday evening.

Delores Bailey, from the non-profit EmPowerment, represented Zone 6. In her pitch to the council, she focused on a need of young children in the community.

“There’s been a major setback in the Head Start program,” she says. “And that alone has been responsible for the groundwork and young people growing. If we’re missing that Head Start piece, we’ve got to have resources that wrap around what we’re missing from there.”

Zone four was campaigned for by Aviva Scully from Stanback Middle School and New Hope Elementary’s Rosemary Deane.

Deane says that during some community events they were able to break down barriers and establish a cumulative goal for the area.

“During our forum, we had families from all over come together. You could see a common vision of what they want for our community,” she recalled.

They are looking to calm some of those concerns with the help of pilot program from the Family Success Alliance Council.

One common theme developed throughout the meeting. No matter which zones were ultimately selected, the ball was rolling and each zone would have the support of the zones that were not chosen.

As for those zones that were not selected, Orange County Health Department Director Dr. Colleen Bridger cautioned that this was a pilot program, so there was no firm timeline for involving the other zones. But she made clear the intention was to do so.

“We need to try it and see how it goes. And then as soon as we can, we want every single zone to be involved in this.”

Doctor Bridger adds that the zones that were not selected will be encouraged to continue their work, and the council will be able to provide some guidance following their next meeting in February.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the pilot program will immediately go into action in zones four and six. Feedback from the success of these programs will be documented and passed along to other areas throughout the community to encourage similar efforts.

http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/zones-chosen-fsa-council-create-pipeline-success-children/

Organizations Team Up To Help Unemployed

Getting the unemployed back to work is the goal of a new program being rolled out by a partnership of local organizations.

The Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness and Chapel Hill-based Community Empowerment Fund are joining forces to launch a new program called Job Partners.

“We’re starting Job Partners, which is a program that’s designed to combat unemployment in the Chapel Hill area through facilitating connections between local employers and community members,” says CEF’s Kaity Taylor.

Taylor says that Community Empowerment Fund started in 2009 by micro-financing loans to help people get back in the job market.

“We started offering savings opportunities [and] financial education, as a support for people who are looking to seek employment, housing, and financial freedom,” she says.

Jamie Rohe, with the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, adds that there is one thing that stands out about the Job Partners program.

“[I’m impressed with] how relational they are. They will have one-on-one advocates working with their clients, sometimes two-on-one.”

Rohe says, “It’s so important and it’s so effective to make their clients feel like someone really cares about them. Somebody takes the time to learn about them.”

According to Taylor, maintaining those connections is paramount to the success of Community Empowerment Fund.

“CEF really focuses on developing those relationships, exploring those relationships, understanding the factors that are at work, and the things that are impacting people’s lives.”

Rohe adds that the relationship extends far beyond the job search.

“They work very hard to make people become job ready,” she says. “And then (they) really cream off the people who are ready and connect them to employers. And then maintain that connection after the people are employed, to make sure it’s working out.”

The organizations are looking for community members that live in Chapel Hill, have strong connections in the area, and are willing to use those connections to better the entire community.

If you would like more information on how to get involved, you can visit the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness website or call CEF at (919) 200-0233.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/organizations-team-help-unemployed/

PORCH Set to Eclipse Huge Benchmark

A local organization devoted to feeding needy families in our community is set to eclipse a major milestone.

PORCH is an organization that has a singular mission and humble beginnings. According to co-founder Susan Romaine, they got started by simply asking neighbors for a helping hand.

“Would you be okay putting a few cans of tuna out on your porch?” Romaine asked. “We would be very happy to come by and collect that tuna from your porch, deliver it to the food pantry, and we’re just going to keep this as simple as possible.”

From that simple start, PORCH is now set to eclipse the $1 million-raised plateau with their next food collection in mid-December.

Co-founder Debbie Horwitz says that once they began collecting food, an eagerness to help developed within their network. “What we realized early on was that so many people were so grateful for the opportunity to give.”

She adds, “Everyone is very busy, and we need to find simple ways to give. PORCH provided that.”

Romaine adds that the number of families in need in our community can be staggering. “It’s estimated that 1-in-5 families in Chapel Hill-Carrboro are food insecure. They wake up certain times of the month not knowing where that breakfast or lunch is coming from that day.”

PORCH is able to be as helpful to the community as they are due to their status as an entirely volunteer organization, meaning nearly 100% of donations are turned into aid.

According to Romaine, “Cash supports the “Food For Families” program – which is the delivery of fresh foods to 250 families in the community identified by the school social workers as being especially at risk of hunger. The non-perishable foods support eight local food pantries.”

Romaine and Horwitz joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air last week.

 

A celebration for eclipsing $1 million raised to fight hunger will be held during the monthly food sort, at St. Thomas More beginning at 9 o’clock the morning of December 15. Horwitz says Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt will be in attendance.

More information on how you can get involved helping PORCH fight hunger in our community is available at porchnc.org.

http://chapelboro.com/news/non-profit-news/porch-set-eclipse-huge-benchmark/

TABLE Expands To Feed More Hungry Children

There will soon be more seats at the table for those children in Chapel Hill and Carrboro who are hungry.

The nonprofit organization TABLE was formed in 2008, with the mission to help feed elementary school children in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Nearly seven years later, TABLE Executive Director Ashton Chatham Tippins says their overall mission is the same.

“We provide healthy food for weekends and school holidays, when they don’t have access to their free school meals,” she says. “On Thursday afternoons we’ll deliver a bag filled with healthy non-perishables, local produce, and fresh milk, every week. And then we’ll give them extra food for the holidays, including Christmas coming up, which will help provide them with extra food then.”

Ashton Chatham Tippins spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.

 

In the past, TABLE has only been able to provide service to elementary school children in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. But thanks to generous donations, the service is now extending to serve preschool and middle school children in the community. According to Chatham Tippins, “30 percent of elementary school kids are on free-and-reduced lunches in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. It’s 60  percent of preschool kids and 24 percent of middle-school kids.”

And with that significant need, the service will now be providing extra food on weekends and holidays to more than 300 local children.

TABLE has two full-time employees, with one part-time member of the staff, and they rely heavily on volunteers – both to assist on site with different events and to organize donation drives. That leaves many opportunities for the community to help out feeding needy children in our area.

Chatham Tippins says residents can help by “donating food and funds. You can host a food drive in your church, your neighborhood, or business, and collect the food and donate it to TABLE. And we always are in need of funds as well.”

And TABLE has an opening for a paid internship beginning next spring. If you would like to submit an application for the position, e-mail your resume and cover letter to tablenc@gmail.com.

More information about the entire TABLE organization, as well as a portal for donations, is available here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/non-profit-news/expansion-coming-local-organization-feeding-hungry-children/

Chapel Hill And Habitat Add New Affordable Rentals

The Town of Chapel Hill is celebrating the addition of an affordable rental duplex in the Rogers Road neighborhood, made possible by Habitat for Humanity.

The duplex will be available though the Town’s Housing Department to qualifying seniors or those living with disabilities.

Applicants must earn less than 60 percent of the Area Median Income. That translates to $27,000 for a one-person household or up to $35,000 for a three-person household.

A celebration to mark the end of construction will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday at 105 Zieger Lane in northern Chapel Hill.

You can find out more about who’s eligible to rent the duplex here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/chapel-hill-habitat-add-new-affordable-rentals/

“GovCups” Event Seeks Innovative Ideas

The Town of Chapel Hill and Launch are teaming up to host an event called GovCups, to initiate creative ideas and services to help government.

GovCups is modeled after an event called 1 Million Cups, which promotes innovative ideas in business. Chapel Hill organizational effectiveness coordinator Rae Buckley says GovCups is designed to encourage local government employees to explore different ways of thinking and creating ideas.

“When I go to a 1 Million Cups event,” she says, “what I see is an entrepreneur who has identified a problem or a gap and is presenting a solution to it. And I think that’s a side of the brain we want our employees – and all of us – to be using as we go about our day-to-day business.”

Two pitches have been selected to present at the event. The Town invites members of the community to participate in the event by using the hashtage #GovCups, live tweeting the event and asking questions during the Q&A session.

The event will be Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 9 a.m. at Chapel Hill Residence Inn. Founder and CFO of 3-Birds Marketing, Len Wohaldo, will speak on being innovative, transparent and open in a startup company.

To learn more and to RSVP, contact Rae Buckley at 919-969-5007 or at rbuckley@townofchapelhill.org.

Launch and RTP also host 1 Million Cups events every Wednesday at 9 a.m.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/govcups-event-seeks-innovative-ideas/